Cholesterol: what is it, why you need not fear eggs and quality saturated fat, and what you can do about elevated ldl (part 2)
In part one of this series, we’ve looked at cholesterol being a natural substance produced in the human body every day, and one that is vital for health. Now, let’s talk about LDL cholesterol: how it can become elevated in your blood and what you can do about it. We’ll also look at the difference between LDL (so-called bad cholesterol) and HDL (so-called good cholesterol).
Given cholesterol is indeed a health-supporting substance in the human body, a key reason why LDL cholesterol can become elevated in your blood is because the liver is sending out more of it to do its job – repair and support.
When inflammation (the body’s response to tissue injury) and free radical damage (unstable atoms causing cellular damage that leads to disease) takes hold in the human body, LDL cholesterol is sent to all our body’s tissues to help keep our cells and organs healthy.
So.…what causes inflammation and free radical damage?
Here are some common contributors to inflammation and free radical damage.
While we obviously can’t do anything about the natural human process of aging, the other factors are all things you can act on. If you’re worried about a blood test showing you have elevated LDL cholesterol and serious about making changes for your health, consider the following.
A final note on LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol – these guys aren’t actually cholesterol, they are carrier proteins that transport cholesterol in your blood. LDL carries cholesterol from your liver to your tissues, and even more so when your body tissues are inflamed and affected by free radical damage. HDL carries cholesterol from body tissues back to the liver. When inflammation and free radical damage are kept in check, there’s no need for so many LDL ‘taxis’ to be ferrying cholesterol all over your body.
So both LDL and HDL protein ‘taxis’ have a job to do, and neither is good or bad per se – it’s more the ratio of these ‘taxis’ and what this tells us about the presence of inflammation and oxidative damage, that is important.
There are other factors that can affect your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels in your blood, particularly the health of your thyroid gland – the butterfly-shaped endocrine gland in your throat that plays a big role in metabolism – your stress levels, and whether you’re consuming adequate daily fibre.
A final thought: if eating eggs and saturated fats truly were the cause of heart disease, why has the prevalence of heart disease only continued to raise over the past several decades, despite so many people avoiding full fat foods, choosing so-called 'heart healthy' sunflower oil, canola or rice bran oil, and restricting their egg intake? Indeed, according to the NZ Heart Foundation and NZ Heart Research Institute, heart disease is now the leading cause of death in New Zealand (this includes stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure and arterial diseases).
And if you’re still not convinced around eggs and saturated fats, here is a 2010 paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that analysed 21 existing studies and found no evidence for a link between consumption of saturated fats and heart disease (eggs are a source of saturated fats, too).
Now, who’s for an omelette, cooked in butter?
If you’d like advice on the results of your cholesterol test, support with reducing your LDL cholesterol and managing your risk of cardiovascular disease and overall guidance on your health and nutrition, message me to find out more about booking your appointment.